In Independence, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, Matt Bollinger’s father, Skip, owned a retail store that sold auto parts. Bollinger’s history begins not in an artist’s studio but in his father’s garage. For Matt, the adventure started when his father’s business, Skip’s Speed and Sport, closed. When the family business could not continue due to the competition with larger chains and his father moved the business into the family home, the garage took on a mythical dimension. The garage appeared to the young artist as a reservoir of forms.
Through conjuring the daily life of the youth of his generation and searching his cultural roots in music as well as in literature, Bollinger’s work took on a deeply autobiographical character. With the precision that is characteristic of him, Matt Bollinger examines fragments of experience like the many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. He sets each of them back in place in the two big drawings currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in St Etienne (France). The many small paintings of « detail » views and the two big canvasses shown here, Independence I and II (2016), complete the puzzle. Those two paintings show « interiors » (Independence I is the father’s interior whose portrait appears behind the door and Independence II is the mother’s interior whose silhouette can be seen reflected in the window on the right). One will notice a certain number of similar objects: lampshades, the suspended plant, the turntable on a low cabinet full of records. The television set is the only object directly shared between the two paintings. These objects create a parallel between the two works suggesting they form a diptych, the left part (Independence I) the masculine element and the right part (Independence II) the feminine element.
Thinking of the two big paintings along with many paintings of more focused views, one remembers the Quattrocento alterpiece made of large main panels supported by predella, small narrative paintings developing the general theme. All are built with the greatest rigor. The figures and objects are set in an architecture which is a way to invent a new sense of space, a space that Matt Bollinger doesn’t imagine as unified but, on the contrary, fragmented by the infinite play of reflection, which he paints with precision. Of this process Bollinger states: « The physical construction of the paintings mirrors the process of unearthing the past. The paintings begin with layers of chaotic color, marks that I initially hide under more naturalistic depictions. Then, through sanding and scraping, I reveal these marks and create present evidence of past activity. The subject of the work is then mediated through a tangible history of mark making and erasure » By way of painting, fiction takes over from memory. —Bernard Zürcher